Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: February, 2016 (16) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 16

February 4, 2016 at 10:57am

CE enables air power worldwide

Staff Sgt. Alan Wall (right), an electrical systems craftsman, and Airman 1st Class Patrick Wright, electrical systems journeyman deployed to the 407th Expeditionary, install high voltage cables December, 2015. U.S. Air Force courtesy photo

"The mission does not happen without us."

These were some of the first words Lt. Col. Michael Francis, 627th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, had for the returning members of the 627th CES Jan. 27 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Field.

From Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, to Ethopia, Jordan and Ahmed Al Jabar Air Base in Kuwait, 37 airmen from the 627th CES deployed in 2015 to varying environments, enabling the U.S. Air Force to have global impact.

Master Sgt. Jason Norberg, 627th CES water fuels systems maintenance section chief, was one of nine members deployed to the Al Udeid Air Base.

According to Norberg, the water fuels maintenance shop and electricians made some pretty vast improvements on the existing infrastructure there.

They installed new pumps and controllers that supplied water to the entire base.

"Without those water pump houses, there is roughly 10,500 people that would go without water," said Norberg. "That would shut down everything from laundry, to food preparations, to bathing."

Because a lot of the airmen, who deployed, were deployed in different roles than at home station - their skills were put to the test and exceeded.

"We saw a lot of people grow professionally and technically," Norberg said. "We challenged them and really got to see what they were good at."

Maintaining a base infrastructure requires more than one section of a squadron, though.

Senior Airman Anthony Deang, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning journeyman, who also deployed to Al Udeid, played just as much of an essential role as anybody else.

The weather in Qatar has temperatures regularly exceeding 116 degrees Fahrenheit, so cooling is a must.

"We provided cooling for the Combined Air Operations Center system so they could work on their computer cells," said Deang.

The CAOC commands and controls the broad spectrum of what air power brings to the fight including global vigilance, global reach and global power.

"The CAOC is very important," Deang said. "But it's so hot out there sometimes the equipment overheats. My job was to rebuild the equipment, fix it or replace it."

Senior Airman Edward Crowell, 627th CES pavements and equipment operator, was also deployed at Al Udeid Air Base.

"Some of our major accomplishments were, we designed and constructed 20,000 feet of airfield vehicle parking area," said Crowell. "With our job, it's easy to see the impact. It gives me a sense of fulfillment."

At 340 miles away from Al Udeid Air Base was Master Sgt. George Phinn, 627th CES superintendent of interior, at Al Jabar Air Base in Kuwait.

He said this deployment marks his eighth, but the experience was refreshing for him.

"This deployment took me back to the basics," said Phinn. "Because it was a bare base we were building it from the ground up."

Phinn's team put in a six-megawatt power plant, consisting of eight generators, which supplied energy to the entire base.

It took a month to get the power plant up and running.

Phinn said a lot of the equipment out there has been around a while.

"The average generator out there was thirty years old," Phinn said. "So in order to do repairs, we had to strip old generators and use the parts to fix the ones we could."

One of the challenges they faced was extreme weather.

"One day it was 135 degrees Fahrenheit," said Phinn. " The generators go into overheat mode when it gets that hot and we have to shut them down."

Phinn and his team of CE members from across the world worked hard to keep them running.

"The best thing about CE is the team work," he said. "Just like a football team, we have different positions and CE is the offensive line. We all have to work together to get our mission accomplished."

And Phinn said he learned an invaluable lesson regarding being a good leader as well.

He was referring to an instance where a senior airman and staff sergeant approached him about a generator that had been down for four years.

"I didn't even think about the equipment because it had been in a fire," said Phinn. "They came to me and started showing me ideas on how to fix it, and it worked."

The piece of equipment they saved was valued at $145,000.

"We always have to encourage our airmen to voice their opinions because they do have some great ideas," Phinn said.

In total, the 627th CES deployed 37 airmen in 2015 to four countries for 180 days.

February 5, 2016 at 10:42am

A rare guest

Brig. Gen. Steve Ritchie. Photo credit:

Attendees at the Washington Air National Guard Awards Banquet held Jan. 30 were treated to a rare guest - the U.S. Air Force's only ace pilot from the Vietnam War, Brig. Gen. Steve Ritchie, retired.

The banquet, held at American Lake Conference Center, was the perfect opportunity to invite the hero, according to Brig. Gen. John Tuohy, assistant adjutant general of the Washington Air National Guard.

"Having Brig. Gen. Ritchie join us was a treat. His experiences with combating communism in Vietnam combined with those of his wife's as a Romanian under communism brought a rich historical perspective to the evening," said Tuohy.

Ritchie volunteered for a second tour in Southeast Asia in 1972, and was assigned to the 555th "Triple Nickel" Tactical Fighter Squadron at Udorn Air Base, Thailand. On May 10, 1972 Ritchie was flying with his weapon system officer, Capt. Chuck DeBellevue, when they destroyed their first MiG-21 with a radar-guided Sparrow missile. All told, Ritchie would down five MiG-21s and after returning from Southeast Asia, he received the MacKay Trophy for the Most Meritorious Flight of 1972.

Ritchie accumulated 800 hours of combat time during 339 missions and was awarded the Air Force Cross, four Silver Stars, 10 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 25 Air Medals. He continued military service with the Colorado Air National Guard. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1994 becoming mobilization assistant to the commander, Air Force Recruiting Service. In this capacity, his inspiring words to more than 2,500 audiences bolstered recruiting efforts.

Ritchie retired from the Air Force Reserves in 1999. He is currently president of Steve Ritchie Associates, Inc., Motivational Speaking.

February 5, 2016 at 10:46am

Local vet wins

Jerome D. Witt, of Roy, Wash. (middle), is awarded a Schwinn 170 upright bicycle at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Exchange after winning third place in the Exchange’s My Battle Buddy Essay contest, Dec. 23. Courtesy photo

Shoulder-to-shoulder they fought, steeled against the chaos and violence that threatened their lives on a daily basis.

Decades after the end of the Vietnam War, many veterans have lost contact with their "Battle Buddies." But few have forgotten them.

That's why last fall, as part of the Exchange's participation in the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemorative Partner Program, the Exchange asked veterans to submit essays detailing their time fighting alongside their favorite "Battle Buddy" for a chance to win $1,600 in prizes. This month, the writers of the top three essays were awarded $1,600 in prizes.

The grand prize winner, Elbert E. Clayton of O'Fallon, Illinois, won a $500 Exchange gift card for his essay on "Pete," with whom he served in February 1962 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Clayton was awarded his prize during a ceremony held Jan. 20 at the Scott Air Force Base Exchange.

Second-place winner Nicholas W. Leopoldus, of Biloxi, Mississippi, was awarded a Schwinn 270 recumbent bicycle during a ceremony held Dec. 21, 2015, at the Keesler Air Force Base Exchange. Leopoldus wrote of 2nd Lt. Ronald Osborne, whom Leopoldus served with during a search-and-destroy mission a few miles from Cambodia in Vietnam. Osborne was killed in action by a claymore mine while outside the perimeter preparing for an anticipated nighttime attack by North Vietnamese forces.

Third-place winner Jerome D. Witt, of Roy, Washington, won a Schwinn 170 upright bicycle for detailing his time with Ernie Sapp, with whom he lost contact after a year of "living on the edge" together as part of a four-man recon team. Witt was awarded his prize Dec. 23, 2015, at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Exchange.

"The Exchange honors the great sacrifice all of our veterans made in defending American freedoms abroad," said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Sean Applegate, Exchange senior enlisted advisor. "Their stories - especially of the support they provided one another to survive - should live on as a testament to the selfless and enduring spirit of the American warfighter."

The 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemorative Partner Program was designed for federal, state and local agencies to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families.

February 5, 2016 at 11:28am

Have you tried MyVector yet?

National Mentoring Month is coming to a close, but there are still opportunities for airmen at all levels to invest in their development and the advancement of others through MyVector.

In 2015, the Air Force launched MyVector to provide members seeking mentoring an opportunity for personal and professional development to help airmen achieve their goals and ultimately strengthen the overall mission of the Air Force.

"I've recently discovered the MyVector tool through an announcement by the (secretary of the Air Force)," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Romero, an Air Force Operations Group emergency actions controller. "It was a bit of a relief to see this tool come out because I'd been looking for a strong mentor, and now had a resource full of volunteers who were able and willing to assist me in my career."

For Romero (last name withheld), throwing his name out there and asking someone to be his mentor was a little intimidating, but said he felt it was necessary for his career. The good news for Romero was the system not only matches by using a by-name method, it also provides a mentor-matching capability based on weighted characteristics identified by the airman searching for a mentor.

"As command post controllers, we are generally in a controlled area, which makes it a bit difficult to run into new people from different career fields," Romero said. "Having this resource available will allow us to literally find the perfect mentor by refining attributes such as marital and dependent status, education level, duty location, and even private sector experience."

MyVector can also benefit already established mentoring relationships. With a web-based mentoring plan - as well as a dashboard that includes a career plan, discussion board and bullet tracker system - the mentor/mentee experience is greatly enhanced.

"I used MyVector to formalize a mentoring relationship I had with a senior leader. I had met with the SES once before and the second time I asked if we could connect on MyVector," said Stephanie Haferbier, of the Secretary of the Air Force Directorate of Public Affairs, Strategy and Assessment Division, Integrated Plans and Strategy Branch. "MyVector made it easier to move from a one-time meeting to a mentoring relationship. I've found that formalizing the connection makes it easier to ask for time on their calendar. Having a regular meeting makes the mentoring more productive too because if you have a dilemma, you know you can bring it up next time you see your mentor. "

By sharing knowledge, experience and wisdom, mentors become a force multiplier enhancing not only mentee, but team performance.

"MyVector provides a way to be challenged by those who have taken pride in challenging themselves, while also having the opportunity to lend a hand to others," Romero said. "I'd imagine it is an honor receiving a request from other airmen to be their mentor."

However, for any program to be truly successful, it requires dedicated mentors. Mentoring assists airmen in developing required leadership and technical competencies to achieve the mission.

"One of the things I learned from my (mentor), is once you've progressed to a certain point in your career it is your obligation to pay it forward and do the same for others and I've always tried to take that to heart," said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. "Mentors can open doors, they can help airmen maximize their strength, and they play an important role in shaping leaders of character, discipline and vision."

Romero agreed.

"Mentoring is unbiased, heartfelt advice from one experienced member to another with the sole purpose of helping the mentee reach their maximum potential," Romero said.

"Mentoring has no career field boundaries or rank requirements. It is simply our duty as servicemembers to ensure we are passing on the torch of excellence to those that will walk in our footsteps."

February 5, 2016 at 11:42am

AF awards contract for next Air Force One

The Boeing Company was awarded a contract Jan. 29 for risk reduction activities for the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, which will field the next Air Force One.

This is the first contract the Air Force has awarded for this program. Additional modifications will be made to this contract in the future to purchase the commercial 747-8 aircraft, as well as to design, modify and test those aircraft to meet the Presidential mission.

These efforts are the first step in a deliberate process to control program risks and life-cycle costs. These activities will include the definition of detailed requirements and design trade-offs required to support informed decisions that will lead to a lower risk Engineering and Manufacturing Development program and lower life-cycle costs.

"This is the start of our contractual relationship with Boeing. It will allow Boeing to begin working on what will be the next Air Force One," said Col. Amy McCain, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program manager. "This initial effort is about reducing risk, really understanding where the tough work will be, finding affordability opportunities, and getting the best value for the taxpayer, while continuing to meet the needs of our Commander in Chief."

The secretary of the Air Force has made it clear that affordability will be a key element of the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program.

February 5, 2016 at 11:45am

Performance-based promotions

Incorporating various observations and assessments from the first year under the new enlisted evaluation and promotion systems, the Air Force is making several adjustments for year two to ease execution and strengthen processes.

In 2015, the Air Force began execution of the new enlisted evaluation and promotion systems with the goal of ensuring performance as the main factor when promoting or evaluating airmen. The new systems also increased a commander's opportunities to identify top performers and clearly indicate an airman's promotion potential to the boards.

Enlisted performance reports available for review by senior NCO evaluation boards will decrease from the previous 10 to five years beginning with the calendar year 2016 master sergeant evaluation board. This change allows an increased focus on recent performance and complements implementation of restricted stratification and forced distribution rules that also emphasize recent performance.

With the change from reviewing 10 years of reports decreased to five years, the Air Force is also transitioning to a single-phase process for the upcoming master sergeant evaluation board.

Starting with the 2016 promotion cycle, the master sergeant evaluation board will be condensed into a single-phase process in which all weighted factors and board scores are combined into one score for each airman. Accordingly, this single-phase approach will eliminate the EPR points as a separate weighted factor similar to senior and chief master sergeant evaluation boards.

"After going through the first master sergeant evaluation board in 2015, we were able to assess our capacity to review all eligible airmen. We now know our systems; facility and annual board schedule can support boarding all eligible technical sergeants," said Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, the director of military force management policy. "This adjustment allows every technical sergeant a chance to have their performance reviewed on its own merit directly by the board."

Under these adjustments, the master sergeant evaluation board will review all eligible technical sergeant selection folders containing each airman's evaluation brief, EPRs closing out within five years of the promotion eligibility cutoff date (PECD), and all decorations received over the airman's entire career. Any Article 15 received within two years of the PECD and recommended for placement in the selection folder by a commander will also be visible.

Another announced adjustment for 2016 is the continuation of the previously-planned reduction in points associated with time-in-service and time-in-grade. For calendar 2016, the multipliers for calculating total TIS and TIG points will be reduced again by another one-third, impacting the 2016 E-5, E-6, E-7, E-9, and 2017 E-8 promotion cycles. The Air Force will again conduct analysis on the impact of this change and determine if future reductions to completely eliminate the TIG and TIS weighted points from the Weighted Airman Promotion System will continue in calendar 2017.

Finally, beginning in calendar 2016, EPR point calculations for promotion to grades E-5 and E-6 will be based solely on an airman's last three forced distributed reports in their current grade. This adjustment provides an equitable method for transitioning from the legacy to the new system. Accounting for legacy EPRs, if in current grade, is accomplished by considering and factoring them into an airman's promotion recommendation. This allows a clean break under the new Forced Distribution system where no points are awarded for legacy EPRs.

For more information about senior NCO evaluation board processes or other adjustments related to enlisted evaluation and promotions, visit the myPers website. 

February 11, 2016 at 10:27am

Service forced into tough decisions

Courtesy U.S. Air Force

The Air Force presented its fiscal year 2017 president's budget request Feb. 9 following the Defense Department and sister services' budget briefings.

Maj. Gen. Jim Martin, the Air Force budget director, presented the service's budget request and said the fiscal 2017 budget request supports the defense strategy, resources combatant commander requirements, continues readiness recovery from fiscal 2016, but still reflects the many tough choices the service had to make to live within the limits of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act.

The Air Force requested a top-line budget of $120.4 billion in Air Force-controlled funding that continues to take care of people, strike the right balance between readiness and modernization, and make every dollar count.

Martin said the temporary relief provided by the BBA allows the service to restore end-strength to recover some critical skill sets; continue the top three modernization programs, but at reduced rates for the F-35; sustain capacity to meet combatant commanders' most urgent needs and readiness for today's fight; and resource strategic assets in nuclear, space, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission areas.

The budget supports a total force end strength of 492,000 personnel and that the service will continue to assess capability gaps and grow end-strength to meet that demand where they exist, he said.

To help with that effort, this budget supports a 1.6 percent pay raise for active-duty and civilian personnel; adds approximately 100 basic training and tech training instructors, and supports approximately 2,100 accessions above fiscal 2016 levels; increases Officer Training School accessions to a maximum capacity of approximately 1,100 candidates; implements the training and integration of enlisted remotely piloted aircraft pilots into the RQ-4 Global Hawk community; and offers a skills retention bonus for critical career fields such as intelligence, cyber, maintenance and battlefield airmen.

For readiness, this budget request funds flying hours to executable levels and weapons system sustainment to near capacity. It ensures advance weapons schools and combat exercises like Red Flag and Green Flag are fully funded to help in a long-term effort to restore full-spectrum readiness; supports 60 RPA combat lines while sustaining critical space programs; and continues to establish 39 cyber teams and trains these cyber airmen to meet today's and tomorrow's threats.

The fiscal 2017 procurement budget preserves top modernization programs, sustains our space procurement strategy, invests in the nuclear enterprise, and funds munitions to near capacity to support ongoing operations and to start replenishing current inventories, Martin said.

"Unfortunately, in this budget, we had to sacrifice modernization for current readiness, and, as a result, were forced to delay five F-35s, some fourth-generation modifications, and delay completion of the recapitalization effort of the C-130H in fiscal 2017," he said.

The budget supports the goal of maintaining assured access to space and viability in contested and increasingly congested environments by continuing the block buys of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency System satellite vehicles 5 and 6 and Space Based Infrared System 5 and 6; and funding five Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launch services, three of which are competitive launch opportunities.

"We appreciate the relief BBA gives, but tough choices remained, leaving critical capability, capacity and readiness gaps," Martin said. "Budget stability and the repeal of BCA limits are necessary for the Air Force to remain true to its long-term strategy and to meet all the demands we are being asked to meet, both today and in the future."
For more information about the Air Force's fiscal 2017 budget request, visit

February 12, 2016 at 10:31am

Officer developmental education

Eligible active-duty officers can apply for intermediate and senior developmental education opportunities beginning in February.

Officer nominations, with senior rater endorsements, will be accepted beginning Feb. 8 and are due to the Air Force Personnel Center no later than March 14.

"There are many opportunities available to those interested in taking the next step to grow personally and professionally," said Kris Hunter, the AFPC Developmental Education deputy chief.

Intermediate programs include the Air Command and Staff College, sister service schools, international schools, a variety of fellowship programs and more.

Senior programs include Air Force and defense fellowships, Army War College, sister service schools, National Defense University programs, international schools and more.

"The eligibility requirements vary depending on the program, so we encourage applicants to carefully review force development information available on the myPers website prior to applying," Hunter said.

The selection results will be announced in October 2016.

Civilian Developmental Education and Civilian Strategic Leadership Program nomination information is projected to be released in March.

For more information about Air Force personnel programs go to the myPers website. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following the instructions on the Air Force Retirees Services website. 

February 12, 2016 at 10:37am

Fairchild named 2015 Omaha Trophy recipient

The 92nd Air Refueling Wing was selected as the 2015 Omaha Trophy recipient in the Strategic Aircraft category.

Each year, the United States Strategic Command selects units in five categories that best support its strategic deterrence, space and cyberspace missions. The five categories include Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, Submarine Ballistic Missile, Strategic Bomber, Strategic Aircraft and Global Operations. The Strategic Aircraft category recognizes the best air-refueling wing, reconnaissance wing or airborne communications wing assigned to USSTRATCOM.

"The selection of the 92nd ARW recognizes the airmen's unwavering support of USSTRATCOM's global mission," said Col. Brian McDaniel, 92nd ARW commander. "The true professionalism and dedication to the mission over the past year was remarkable. Fairchild demonstrated that we are ready and we stand on a foundation of excellence."

The Omaha Trophy was created by the STRATCOM Consultation Committee out of Omaha, Nebraska. The Strategic Air Command Consultation Committee first presented the Omaha Trophy as a single trophy to the Strategic Air Command in 1971 on behalf of the citizens of Omaha. The number of categories increased over the years as the USSTRATCOM's missions and organizational structure changed. The four current categories reflect the command's primary lines of operations and continued emphasis on strategic deterrence and its evolving role in global operations.

The Omaha Trophy rotates between installations annually. Command officials present a miniature trophy or plaque and certificate to each winning unit. The Omaha Trophy is returned at the beginning of the next competitive cycle.

"Words cannot express how proud I am of the airmen," said McDaniel. "I am humbled to be part of this prestigious accomplishment."

February 12, 2016 at 10:41am

The new self-plus-one

The self-plus-one option allows enrollees to cover themselves plus one family member. File photo

Employees currently enrolled in self and family coverage in the Federal Employees Health Benefits programs can change to the new self-plus-one option during the Office of Personnel Management limited enrollment period open now until Feb. 29.

The self-plus-one option allows enrollees to cover themselves and one eligible family member. Eligibility for the self-plus-one option is the same as for the self and family enrollment. Eligible family members include spouses and children under age 26. A child with a mental or physical disability that existed before age 26 is also eligible for enrollment as a family member.

"This is not a second open season," said Erica Cathro, an Air Force Personnel Center human resources specialist. "Only employees enrolled in self and family will be allowed to change to self-plus-one during this period. No changes in plans, option changes, or increases or other decreases will be allowed."

Electronic enrollment systems will be available for use during this time, and employees are encouraged to make their changes electronically. They should contact their local human resources office if they experience any issues or have additional questions.

More information on the limited enrollment period for self-plus-one enrollment is available on the "Civilian Employee" homepage of the myPers website; enter self-plus-one in the search window. Individuals can also find information on this option on the Office of Personnel Management website.

For more information about Air Force personnel programs, go to the myPers website. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following the instructions on the Air Force Retirees Services website. 


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